Introduction of Tourist Tax makes Country most expensive Safari Destination

Botswana has overcome opposition from its tourism bosses to introduce a $30 (about £23) tax on all tourists entering the country in an effort to raise money to support conservation in the safari hotspot. The Tourism Development Levy (TDL) was on the cusp of being introduced last year but stalled after opposition from the African nation’s Hospitality and Tourism Association (Hatab).

But now the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) has said the fee will be owed by any visitor to Botswana’s airports and border posts from June 1, payable at the point of entry. Residents of countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which counts 15 members, will be exempt from the charge. “The levy is purposed to support the growth of the industry and broaden the tourism base, resultantly improving the lives of the people of Botswana,” said the BTO. “The objective of the levy is to raise funds for conservation and national tourism development in order to support the growth of the industry and broaden the tourism base.”

Last year Hatab complained that it nor other stakeholders had been consulted on the potential tax. Botswana, which welcomes some 1.6million visitors a year, of which 42,000 are British, stands to make around £34.1million a year from the tax, taking into account the 190,000 SADC visitors. The country in Southern Africa is popular with British tourists seeking to spot the Big Five on safari in the continent, as well as for visits to the Okavango Delta, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. Graham Boynton, writing for Telegraph Travel in 2014, said the country boasted one of the best safaris in Africa. It has more elephants than anywhere else in the world.

He also noted the importance of tourism to the country’s economy, in part because the country’s safari offering is one of the most expensive. “Botswana is by far the most expensive safari destination on the continent: visitors can expect to pay up to £1,600 a night in high season at the top wildlife lodges,” wrote Boynton. “I spent a couple of nights at Wilderness Safaris’ famous Mombo Camp; it was full, and all but two of the guests were extremely wealthy Americans: corporate lawyers, international financiers, business tycoons. One family of six New Yorkers had booked in for almost a week at a cost close to £55,000 – and they didn’t blink.”

Payment of the levy can be made in cash, debit and credit card. Once a TDL stamp is acquired it is valid for 30 days and can be used for multiple entries. British visitors to Botswana are allowed to stay in the country for up to 90 days without a visa.

The introduction of tourism taxes to support sustainable development is also common in Europe. The Balaeric Islands imposed an “eco-tax” on holidaymakers last April, while many cities on the continent, including Rome, Florence and Dubrovnik, also charge visitors extra.

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